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How sleep affects fat loss and weight gain

Does sleep affect weight loss?

Yes. During periods of less than ideal sleep, the weight you lose is actually a higher proportion of the hard earned muscle than fat. Let’s break it down further: 

I’d often get a confused look on peoples faces when I talk about how sleeping more can actually help you lose fat. Sure, getting your training, and nutrition right helps, but if you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep, chances are you’re selling yourself short.  



What happens to your body, and why?

The body’s primary fuel source is determined on what is known as RER (respiratory exchange ratio). When RER is measured HIGH, you burn more lean tissue per day to meet your BMR needs – the minimum amount of calories your body needs to perform life-sustaining functions needs. When RER is measured LOW, you burn more fat per day to meet your energy needs. 

What is RER exactly?

RER = Respiratory Exchange Ratio:

Specific to muscle building and fat loss, RER is a tool used in laboratories to measure whether we burn more lean tissue or fats as the body’s primary fuel source.

RER is the ratio between amount of carbon dioxide produced by the body vs amount of oxygen consumed by body

It basically tells the type of fuel used for daily energy needs and if RER is measured high then you burn more lean tissues. If it’s low you burn more fat.

So with this in mind, here’s what happens when you consistently don’t get enough sleep…

What happens to your body?

A significant rise in RER means most of your daily calorie burn will come from your hard-earned muscle as opposed to fatty tissue. The goal is to keep RER low to ensure we are burning more fat tissue and keeping lean muscle mass if body composition is your goal.

Lack of sleep makes you less likely to adhere to meal plans, and result in binge eating. It also results in decreased levels of leptin which is a hormone that promotes satiety and a major regulator of a healthy metabolism in the body. So, you’re more likely to reach for salty snacks, and high starch foods due to the increased levels of ghrelin which is a hormone that increases hunger and cravings. Studies have shown that “the reduction of sleep duration to four hours for two consecutive nights has recently been shown to decrease circulating leptin levels, and to increase ghrelin levels, as well as self-reported hunger”.



In one study done in 2008, it was founded that women who had less than adequate sleep, 6 hours per night over 4 days was enough to send their voluntary daily caloric intake up by 20%. Just think about that for a second. Count the amount of meals/calories you currently consume, now add a further 20% of calories to that due to your increase hunger and cravings from sleep deprivation. There is no doubt you’d either put on weight or struggle to lose it if this becomes an on-going issue.


Fast track your results by simply doing the one free thing that many of us wish we could get more of: sleep! 

About the Author:

Will is the Co–owner, and Coach of Adonis Athletics Castle Hill, and Adonis Athletics Penrith. Will has worked with a range of people over the last 7 years ranging from the recreational lifter right through to the very elite in multiple disciplines providing coaching on both training, and nutrition. Across the two branches he currently houses multiple World Champions in Powerlifting, BMX and Fighters. National and Asia Oceania Champions as well as high level sporting athletes in both football, rugby and more.

If you would like to get in touch with Will with regards to your own training, health and fitness related goals you can contact him via email at Will@adonisathletics.com.au or through the website. www.adonisathletics.com.au

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